Do you have a moment for something musical? Piers Lane does. His latest Wigmore Hall recital was audience-full and attracted at least one fellow-pianist, Stephen Kovacevich.
The soulful Rachmaninov opener was played with dignity and much sentiment, consoling and transporting. The silence that greeted it was significant – magic had already happened – and allowed Lane some valuable seconds to prepare for the Opus 23 set of Preludes, given virtually continuously, creating one big multifarious work rather than ten short ones. The introspective No.1 (F sharp minor) was followed by the barnstorming B flat, heroically delivered. If all ten Preludes were given by Lane with much insight and illumination, some were especially distinguished: the lullaby of the D major (No.4) was immaculately voiced and rapturous; the succeeding march of the G minor enjoyed panache and militaristic deliberation; then came the expressive ripples and sensuous harmonies of the E flat (No.6); and this was succeeded by the dazzling dexterity needed for the C minor. By the time of the Tenth (in G flat), we had reached wrap-up time. In such an enthralling setting, this Prelude seemed more a postlude, a nostalgic envoi as well as an inward summation of what had preceded it.
The last of Schubert’s Moments musicaux occupies a similar position in relation to its five brethren. Lane played it most beautifully, with the finest of feelings and also with inviting intimacy. A shame then about the undisguised coughing that scarred this touching piece: on this occasion the Wigmore Hall’s regular request to switch off mobiles and keep coughing at bay was not given. Following this touching miniature, those with bronchial problems went on to share them big-time, seemingly unsettling Lane as he readied himself for further Schubert, this time an epic Sonata.
Lane’s account of the first movement of D959 was rugged, active and malleable, eloquent when required, but it was disappointing to lose the exposition repeat, both for itself, to retain the music’s grand scale, and in relation to the extent of the movements that follow. It was compelling though, and the coda, which here seemed to look-back to Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ Sonata, was fascinatingly impressionistic. With Schubert nearing the end of his life, bowing out aged 31, the succeeding Andantino seemed death-haunted, funereal in its tread, and Lane conjured a superbly tempestuous, clangourous and even vehement middle section. After which the scherzo was impish and light-hearted, flexible and gruff too, the trio a hopeful hymnal. For the expansive finale, Lane gambolled its country-walk gait ideally, judged perfectly its gathering strength and increasing pace, easing back seamlessly for returns of the opening idea, and then boldly crowned the coda – and its full-circle return to the Sonata’s very opening.
As he had done for the Rachmaninov, Lane gave us an exhaustive performance of D959, his innate involvement clear to hear. He wasn’t done, for there followed Chopin’s D flat Nocturne (Opus 27/2), a little too up-front at first but soon withdrawing to the subtle fragrance and adornment of the night. Whether fastidious or flamboyant, and what lies in between, Piers Lane is always at the service of the music, investing much personality into it ... and fortunately for longer than just a moment.